NRL Round 8 Six Again: Costly bunker blunder mars great round

First tackle: Costly NRL bunker blunder mars great round

With seconds remaining in the game and the Sea Eagles trailing the Knights 14-12, winger Tevita Funa made a break down the right-hand touchline. With stand-in fullback Tex Hoy converging and Bradman Best in pursuit, Funa kicked ahead. With the ball well-clear of Funa's boot, Best shoved him in the back, sending him crashing into Hoy. There were too many doubts involved for it to have been ruled a penalty try, but without a single doubt it was a penalty.

In the bunker Jared Maxwell was tasked with reviewing the play and after what seemed to be precious few replays, considering the importance of the decision, he called play on, nothing to see here, game over. It was as though Maxwell had a big night lined up and was very keen to get home without the potential inconvenience of sitting through golden point extra time.

The Manly players were incensed, with Addin Fonua-Blake questioning the constitution of referee Grant Atkins in such a manner that he was sent from the field. Daly Cherry-Evans questioned Atkins intensely, but as Atkins correctly pointed out, it had been reviewed by the bunker, the decision was not his to make.

The penalty would have seen a pressure kick from near the sideline to level the scores. The Sea Eagles were denied the opportunity to take the game into golden point extra time. Earlier in the year they were dudded by a bad forward pass call, they can probably expect the same result this time - an apology from the NRL for a costly mistake.

Second tackle: Emotional Joey loses his head

When running out to play a sport as physically imposing as rugby league, a player has to be willing to put their body on the line for their teammates. The toughness of the game encourages a brotherhood among players who pull on the same jersey to go into that sporting battle each week. A player has to work with his teammates, has to believe in his teammates and has to be passionate about his place in that footballing family.

The few players who take to the field with a member of their actual family are enjoying a privileged opportunity to share all the highs and lows with someone they have known for all or most of their lives. Of course they are going to feel an added sense of responsibility to look out for their own flesh and blood.

What they can't do, as perfectly illustrated by Wests Tigers Joseph Leilua against the Panthers on Saturday night, is allow emotion to overtake logic. When Penrith hooker Api Koroisau floored Luciano Leilua, it was natural for Joey to race in to protect his fallen brother. You could almost forgive him for shoving Koroisau when he tried to apologise to Luciano, Api certainly did.

"I've got nothing against Joey there, he did the right thing for his brother," Koroisau said after the game.

"Tensions were high, it is his brother that went down and obviously he is going to be a bit upset. As you would be, as any brother would be and obviously teammates as well."

What is unforgivable is Leilua's one-man mission from that point on to inflict as much damage as he could on anyone sporting a pink Panthers' jersey. The Tigers were right in the game, right up until he stepped past the ball to iron out Panthers' fullback Dylan Edwards with a swinging arm to the head. He was sent to the sin bin, the Panthers wrapped up the game and he now faces a minimum four-week ban.

Third tackle: Seibold given last rights

With the Broncos losing their sixth-straight game of the season, against a Warriors team missing its two best players and reluctant to even be in Australia, things looked pretty grim for coach Anthony Seibold. Several of his players were clearly distraught after the latest low-point in the proud club's horrible 2020 season and Seibold was at a loss to come up with solutions.

And then, a day later, it happened.

Seibold received the full support of the Broncos board in a hastily arranged Sunday morning media conference.

The only thing a coach wants to hear less, is the actual announcement of his sacking, which almost inevitably follows. The "full support of the board" has long been a discreet way for a club to say that they are in the process of dismissing a coach, but need a bit of time, during which the coach has the opportunity to work a mind-changing miracle.

Seibold and the Broncos will be hoping that the beginning of that miracle will come next week when they play the competition's absolute lowest of the low, the Bulldogs. They could be in for another shock, though. If Bulldogs coach Dean Pay can sort out his 'home for misfit backs' backline, the expected first start of English prop Luke Thompson could just give them the lift needed to topple the downtrodden and disillusioned Brisbane side.

Sharing last position on the ladder, for a team whose stated goal for 2020 was a top four finish, could just about be the final straw for Seibold.

Fourth tackle: Sometimes you need a penalty

With so many teams happily giving away a six again infringement on the first and second tackle, as they look for vital seconds to set their defensive line, maybe the referees could adjust their approach slightly. Any infringement on the first two tackles should revert to a good old-fashioned penalty, particularly when a team is coming out of their own half.

That way the team with the ball will at least benefit from a territory-gaining kick for touch, on top of six more tackles. It won't help with teams infringing inside their own 20 metres where they are more than happy to give away two points most of the time. A more liberal use of the sin bin is needed in those circumstances.

Fifth and last: Basic errors killing Dragons

The Raiders' third try on Friday night was a nightmare for Dragons fans. Already trailing 12-0 in Canberra, the Dragons were desperately defending their try line, when George Williams received the ball at first receiver, 15 metres out, in the middle of the field. Korbin Sims, the first defender in the line, raced up and in on Williams, leaving an enormous hole behind him that a sluggish Josh Kerr at marker had no hope of covering.

Williams stepped off his left foot, putting Sims on ice, and sprinted past Matthew Dufty to the line. It was a horrible failure in defensive fundamentals from a couple of players who were relatively fresh off the interchange bench. It proves yet again, that you can only blame the coach for so many of a team's woes.

Handover: Gutho is truly the King

There were some concerns that the Eels might not be as potent without five-eighth Mitchell Moses. When he hobbled off last week against the Raiders, Clint Gutherson stepped up to ensure the win in golden point extra time. He took over the backline, throwing exquisite passes, guiding teammates through defensive lapses.

Against the Cowboys he continued his great work from fullback. Chiming in on the left he threw two perfect passes for Parramatta's opening two tries. The first found Michael Jennings who left Kyle Feldt grasping at air with a clever shift to his outside shoulder. The second pass, which looked to be headed to Jennings again, had an extra bit of zip on it, whistling past the nose of the centre to find Maika Sivo perfectly. The Cowboys' defence were left tackling everyone but the man who ended up with the ball.

The Eels have done an amazing job this season and beating two tough opponents without a key player like Moses bodes well as they head towards the pointy end of the season.